Four months after reports that the head of one of its most prestigious programs had abruptly resigned, Yale University is forming a committee to review its endowment policy to ensure academic freedom is protected from undue donor influence.
The committee, whose creation was first reported by The Yale Daily News, will be made up of faculty and administrative staff selected by Yale President Peter Salovey. A university spokeswoman, Karen Peart, said Salovey will provide “more details when he announces the commission, which will be soon.”
Concerns about undue donor influence at Yale rose after DailyExpertNews reported in September that Beverly Gage, a history professor, had quietly resigned as head of the Grand Strategy program after she said the government had failed to defending against curriculum interference by two of the university’s most prominent and entrenched donors. One of those donors had given Yale $500 million — the largest gift in its history.
Gage, a scholar of 20th-century American political history who had led the program since 2017, said that in November 2020, after a colleague of the program published an op-ed in The Times criticizing President Donald Trump as a demagogue constitution, she received the first of what became a series of questions and concerns about the program from the donors.
Last March, after the Gage administration announced that a new advisory board it was creating under previously ignored statutes would be dominated by conservative figures of the donors’ choice, including former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, she tendered her resignation. .
News of her resignation in September sparked an outcry among the faculties at Yale and elsewhere, who said the government had failed to defend academic freedom.
After the Times article appeared, Salovey sent a letter to the Yale community saying he was sorry that Gage had “experienced more unsolicited input from donors than might reasonably be expected from faculty members.” Salovey, who was to lead a launch event for Yale’s new $7 billion capital campaign the following day, also reaffirmed Yale’s “unshakable commitment to academic freedom.”
In October, the Yale Senate Senate passed a resolution calling for a committee to both “examine existing donor agreements” and recommend new policies that would protect academic freedom. While details of the commission’s access and power are yet to be specified, Salovey told The Yale Daily News it would not monitor individual donations to the school.
“The committee will be tasked with reviewing current policies for accepting and evaluating gifts, recommending any beneficial changes, and recommending the best way to ensure the faculty can easily resolve issues with administration of gifts or future gifts. can communicate,” he said.
Valerie Horsley, an associate professor at Yale Medical School and chair of the faculty senate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in an email, Gage, who was not involved in the faculty resolution, praised the committee cautiously.
“The committee’s initiative looks promising,” she said, “although of course its effectiveness will depend in part on the committee’s membership and leadership, and on their level of access to university gift agreements and internal processes.”